The Purpose Driven Life
The Heart of Worship
Romans 12:1-16


Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. [2] Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.


On Thursday last week, a woman from Kent was jailed for more than two years for bigamously marrying three husbands. Usually a crime committed by men, Karen Kennedy broke the law when she married two illegal immigrants within four months of each other while already married. The two men Kennedy married were from Bangladesh and worked as a waiter and a chef at the Khan Indian Tandoori Restaurant in Herne Bay. She married Muhith Abdul in July 2002 and Quddus Abdul in November of the same year. Her legal husband Jim was persuaded to be a witness at the first wedding while her "husband" from that marriage was a witness at the second. Kennedy told the court Khan owed her £37,000 and that he had said he would only be able to pay her if she "did a little favour for him". 

What would you say is the primary cause of marital strife these days? Think about it. I’ll give you a clue. It begins with the letter ‘S’. Here’s another clue. It was the same reason Tony Blair got a bloody nose last week - in the European elections that is. You’re right - it’s the word… ssssssurrender. Surrender is not a popular word.

It is probably disliked just as much the other dreaded ‘S’ word - ssssssubmission.  We love our independence as individuals just as much as nations and woe betide anyone trying to take it away or constraining our rights. As Rick Warren says, surrender, “implies losing, and no one wants to be a loser. Surrender evokes the unpleasant images of admitting defeat in battle, forfeiting a game or yielding to a stronger opponent. The word is almost always used in a negative context.” For example, the newspapers will describe how a cornered fugitive ‘surrendered’ to the authorities. In our “competitive culture we are taught to never give up and never give in - so we don’t hear much about surrendering. If winning is everything, surrendering is unthinkable.”  The most popular books on leadership, management and business focus on empowerment, on “winning, succeeding, overcoming, and conquering.”  They don’t tend to have chapters extolling the virtues of “yielding, submitting, obeying, and surrendering.”

Which makes God’s word, the makers instructions so very, very radical - for it has a great deal to say about surrender and submission - indeed God insists this is the only way to health and wholeness, to harmony and fulfilment, to peace and contentment, to a long and fruitful life.  In our passage from Romans 12, I want us to observe three things about surrender - the plea to surrender in worship; the purpose of surrender in witness; and the power of surrender in wise living.

1. The Plea for Surrender in Worship

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1)


Rick Warren makes the provocative assertion that “The heart of worship is surrender”. I have spent several days reflecting on that truth. It made me realise that when ever someone tells me they didn’t like a particular service, or they didn’t care for a particular song, or when someone observes that none of the hymns were written by a contemporary author, or that we were too introspective in our choruses, or they prefer the book to the screen, I have to stop myself from debating the merits of their argument and remember that worship is all about surrender.  Surrendering myself to my Lord and King. When we focus on the hymns or the songs, when we are preoccupied with the liturgy or lack of it, with the noise or the silence, with the organ or the keyboard, we have lost sight of the most profound and essential truth about worship. Its not about you and me. Its all about surrendering ourselves to him. How can we stand above others when we are bowed on our knees?  No wonder Paul pleads with us to surrender ourselves to God and see this as authentic worship. The Message translates verse 1 this way,

“So here’s what I want you to do. God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around-life - and place it before God as an offering.” 

Worship then is not so much an act as a state of mind, least of all an act performed for an hour on Sundays. Worship occurs when we surrender our heart, soul and mind to the Living God, where ever we are, what ever we are doing. Unless we enter this building worshipping it is unlikely we will leave it doing so. And if we have enter in a spirit of surrender, focussing on the mercy of God, we will not be unduly worried or distracted by the attempts of others to offer their worship in their own way. On your knees, everyone else is higher than you. I like to kneel in worship because it enables me to express with my body what my heart knows is true.  The plea for surrender in worship. Notice, secondly how worship becomes witness,


2. The Purpose of Surrender in Witness

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2a)

What does Paul mean by the ‘pattern of this world”  I think its behaviour associated with pride, with gossiping, with cheating, with infidelity, with back handers, with moral compromise.  Eugene Peterson helpfully puts it like this, Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.” (Romans 12:2). Instead of conforming we are being transformed. How? Through the renewing of our minds.  That is why studying God’s word is so important, why being a member of one of our bible study groups is so essential. Because renewal begins in the mind. A change of mind leads to a change of behaviour. The word ‘transformed’ Paul uses here is the same word used to describe the transfiguration of Jesus. Matthew tells us


“There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light” (Matthew 17:2).


The supernatural power that revealed the true nature of Jesus to his close disciples is the same supernatural power at work in your to make you like Jesus. Transfigured = metamorphosis. We too are literally being transfigured as we surrender our lives to God. Next Saturday at Carnival Capers the Christians of Christ Church are going to stand out. Wearing bright yellow shirts we are going to be highly visible. Unmissable.  With hindsight I don’t think the choice of colour was an accident. The yellow shirts might make us visible but that is not the primary purpose. We want people to associate the shirts with our words and actions. That we have surrendered our lives to Jesus. That is why we are there - to serve. We’re not there to raise money for charity or gain support for our cause. We are there to make Jesus known in word and deed. Are you willing to wear a yellow shirt and for your neighbours to know that you identify with Jesus Christ?

There is no greater witness than when a seeker changes their life’s direction to follow Jesus. When a pagan turns missionary. The plea for surrender in worship. The purpose of surrender in witness.

3. The Power of Surrender in Wise Living

”Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2b)


What is God’s good and perfect will? Paul goes on to define it in verses 9-13.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal,


but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:3-13)


Let me give you an example of how this principle worked for me on Friday. Its not every day that I can say confidently that I have been able to test and approve what God’s will is - but Friday was one of them. I began the day with a prayer - in particular for the appointment of a new national director of International Bible Society. We had interviewed four candidates on Wednesday and there was one person who seemed very clearly to be God’s choice. He asked for 48 hours to think and pray about it (and we also knew they had two other interviews for other ministry positions). You can imagine what I was praying for.

Then I prepared a short speech for a farewell reception for the retiring national director - Sally Lambert - being held at the offices of Hodder Headline the publishers at lunch time for a group of friends, ministry colleagues and supporters. Then I wrote half the e-news before getting Michael to school and Katie to Sunningdale.

On the way back I visited a parishioner who had asked to see me about some rather nasty correspondence she had been receiving. After consoling her over coffee and cake and a walk round the garden, I finished off the enews, albeit a little late, before calling in to see Bruce and Nancy in the office to discuss the news sheet and the new carpet proposals. Then I got the 10:48 train to London. On the train I reworked my speech and had a little sleep. I used the stairs on the underground to get a little exercise and found Hodders in Euston Road without needing to phone James for directions. I gave my presentation at Sally’s farewell reception, had lunch marvelling at the views of London from Hodder’s 16th floor and managed to get the 2:52 train home to Virginia water in time to pick up Michael from school, and get to the clergy and wardens meeting for 3:30.

Then the phone call came from our preferred choice for IBS national director - and I’m pleased to be able to make it public - Graham Sopp, presently, deputy chief executive of Crosslinks will be our new IBS national director.  And as if the seal on God’s sovereign leading, graham lives near Guildford where the present office is so it won’t be necessary to relocate or lose the existing staff. Clearly, God’s good, pleasing and perfect will revealed. Then there were two early evening wedding practices before going on to a Deanery supper with the Bishop of Kebbi Diocese.

I confess that I did need James’ navigational skills to find the Vicarage in Addlestone. Back home and before bed I prepared for a Deanery presentation on parish evangelism I was giving on Saturday morning. I went to sleep rejoicing that God had guided me through the day and that I had experienced his good, pleasing and perfect will. Each time I had been unsure that I would make it, I simply surrendered my schedule to the Lord and found myself with time to spare. The whole day felt like I was being carried along on a wave.  Now, not every day goes as smoothly but I am learning to surrender more often and finding when I do, that discerning the Lord’s good and perfect will a whole lot easier than when I try and second guess him or do it in my own strength. 

Earlier in Romans 6:13, Paul writes, “Surrender your whole being to him to be used for righteous purposes.” (Romans 6:17). That’s what the Christian life is all about.


The plea for surrender in worship - submission.
The purpose of surrender in witness - transfiguration.
The power of surrender in wise living - assurance.

Probably the most influential Christian of the 20th Century was also one of the most humble. Bill Bright founded Campus Crusade for Christ in the 1950’s and went on to write the four spiritual laws and underwrite the Jesus film. In the next 50 years, over a billion copies of that booklet were printed and over 4 billion people world-wide have now seen the Jesus film. According to Rick Warren, over 150 million people have come to faith and will spend eternity in heaven through the anointed influence of that one man’s ministry.

Before he died recently, Rick asked Bill “Why did God use and bless your life so much?” This is what Bill replied. “When I was a young man, I made a contract with God. I literally wrote it out and signed my name at the bottom. It said, “From this day forward, I am a slave of Jesus Christ.” I am a slave of Jesus Christ. That is what it means to surrender your life. “In view of God’s mercy” says Paul, in view of all that Jesus Christ has done for you, there is nothing more worthy of your life than to surrender your all to his love. Rick Warren puts it like this “Surrender is not the best way to live, it is the only way to live. Nothing else works”

Have you ever signed a contract like Bill Bright did with God? “Or are you still arguing and struggling with God over his right to do with your life as he pleases.? Now is the time to surrender - to God’s grace, love and wisdom” and worship him. Lets pray.


This sermon was inspired by a variety of sources but primarily, Rick Warren’s, “The Heart of Worship” in The Purpose Driven Life, pp77-84.